Part 5 out of 5
I was only a woman, and when I saw you again I could not help
weeping, but I did not give way.
Did I do right? That is what I ask myself to-day, as I lie ill in
my bed, that I shall never leave, perhaps, until I am dead.
You are witness of what I felt as the hour of our separation
approached; your father was no longer there to support me, and
there was a moment when I was on the point of confessing
everything to you, so terrified was I at the idea that you were
going to bate and despise me.
One thing which you will not believe, perhaps, Armand, is that I
prayed God to give me strength; and what proves that he accepted
my sacrifice is that he gave me the strength for which I prayed.
At supper I still had need of aid, for I could not think of what
I was going to do, so much did I fear that my courage would fail
me. Who would ever have said that I, Marguerite Gautier, would
have suffered so at the mere thought of a new lover? I drank for
forgetfulness, and when I woke next day I was beside the count.
That is the whole truth, friend. judge me and pardon me, as I
have pardoned you for all the wrong that you have done me since
What followed that fatal night you know as well as I; but what
you can not know, what you can not suspect, is what I have
suffered since our separation.
I heard that your father had taken you away with him, but I felt
sure that you could not live away from me for long, and when I
met you in the Champs-Elysees, I was a little upset, but by no
Then began that series of days; each of them brought me a fresh
insult from you. I received them all with a kind of joy, for,
besides proving to me that you still loved me, it seemed to me as
if the more you persecuted me the more I should be raised in your
eyes when you came to know the truth.
Do not wonder at my joy in martyrdom, Armand; your love for me
had opened my heart to noble enthusiasm.
Still, I was not so strong as that quite at once.
Between the time of the sacrifice made for you and the time of
your return a long while elapsed, during which I was obliged to
have recourse to physical means in order not to go mad, and in
order to be blinded and deafened in the whirl of life into which
I flung myself. Prudence has told you (has she not?) how I went
to all the fetes and balls and orgies. I had a sort of hope that
I should kill myself by all these excesses, and I think it will
not be long before this hope is realized. My health naturally got
worse and worse, and when I sent Mme. Duvernoy to ask you for
pity I was utterly worn out, body and soul.
I will not remind you, Armand, of the return you made for the
last proof of love that I gave you, and of the outrage by which
you drove away a dying woman, who could not resist your voice
when you asked her for a night of love, and who, like a fool,
thought for one instant that she might again unite the past with
the present. You had the right to do what you did, Armand; people
have not always put so high a price on a night of mine!
I left everything after that. Olympe has taken my place with the
Comte de N., and has told him, I hear, the reasons for my leaving
him. The Comte de G. was at London. He is one of those men who
give just enough importance to making love to women like me for
it to be an agreeable pastime, and who are thus able to remain
friends with women, not hating them because they have never been
jealous of them, and he is, too, one of those grand seigneurs who
open only a part of their hearts to us, but the whole of their
purses. It was of him that I immediately thought. I joined him in
London. He received me as kindly as possible, but he was the
lover there of a woman in society, and he feared to compromise
himself if he were seen with me. He introduced me to his friends,
who gave a supper in my honour, after which one of them took me
home with him.
What else was there for me to do, my friend? If I had killed
myself it would have burdened your life, which ought to be happy,
with a needless remorse; and then, what is the good of killing
oneself when one is so near dying already?
I became a body without a soul, a thing without a thought; I
lived for some time in that automatic way; then I returned to
Paris, and asked after you; I heard then that you were gone on a
long voyage. There was nothing left to hold me to life. My
existence became what it had been two years before I knew you. I
tried to win back the duke, but I had offended him too deeply.
Old men are not patient, no doubt because they realize that they
are not eternal. I got weaker every day. I was pale and sad and
thinner than ever. Men who buy love examine the goods before
taking them. At Paris there were women in better health, and not
so thin as I was; I was rather forgotten. That is all the past up
Now I am seriously ill. I have written to the duke to ask him for
money, for I have none, and the creditors have returned, and come
to me with their bills with pitiless perseverance. Will the duke
answer? Why are you not in Paris, Armand? You would come and see
me, and your visits would do me good.
The weather is horrible; it is snowing, and I am alone. I have
been in such a fever for the last three days that I could not
write you a word. No news, my friend; every day I hope vaguely
for a letter from you, but it does not come, and no doubt it will
never come. Only men are strong enough not to forgive. The duke
has not answered.
Prudence is pawning my things again.
I have been spitting blood all the time. Oh, you would be sorry
for me if you could see me. You are indeed happy to be under a
warm sky, and not, like me, with a whole winter of ice on your
chest. To-day I got up for a little while, and looked out through
the curtains of my window, and watched the life of Paris passing
below, the life with which I have now nothing more to do. I saw
the faces of some people I knew, passing rapidly, joyous and
careless. Not one lifted his eyes to my window. However, a few
young men have come to inquire for me. Once before I was ill, and
you, though you did not know me, though you had had nothing from
me but an impertinence the day I met you first, you came to
inquire after me every day. We spent six months together. I had
all the love for you that a woman's heart can hold and give, and
you are far away, you are cursing me, and there is not a word of
consolation from you. But it is only chance that has made you
leave me, I am sure, for if you were at Paris, you would not
leave my bedside.
My doctor tells me I must not write every day. And indeed my
memories only increase my fever, but yesterday I received a
letter which did me good, more because of what it said than by
the material help which it contained. I can write to you, then,
to-day. This letter is from your father, and this is what it
"MADAME: I have just learned that you are ill. If I were at Paris
I would come and ask after you myself; if my son were here I
would send him; but I can not leave C., and Armand is six or
seven hundred leagues from here; permit me, then, simply to write
to you, madame, to tell you how pained I am to hear of your
illness, and believe in my sincere wishes for your speedy
One of my good friends, M. H., will call on you; will you kindly
receive him? I have intrusted him with a commission, the result
of which I await impatiently. "Believe me, madame,
"Yours most faithfully."
This is the letter he sent me. Your father has a noble heart;
love him well, my friend, for there are few men so worthy of
being loved. This paper signed by his name has done me more good
than all the prescriptions of our great doctor.
This morning M. H. called. He seemed much embarrassed by the
delicate mission which M. Duval had intrusted to him. As a matter
of fact, he came to bring me three thousand francs from your
father. I wanted to refuse at first, but M. H. told me that my
refusal would annoy M. Duval, who had authorized him to give me
this sum now, and later on whatever I might need. I accepted it,
for, coming from your father, it could not be exactly taking
alms. If I am dead when you come back, show your father what I
have written for him, and tell him that in writing these lines
the poor woman to whom he was kind enough to write so consoling a
letter wept tears of gratitude and prayed God for him.
I have passed some terrible days. I never knew the body could
suffer so. Oh, my past life! I pay double for it now.
There has been some one to watch by me every night; I can not
breathe. What remains of my poor existence is shared between
being delirious and coughing.
The dining-room is full of sweets and all sorts of presents that
my friends have brought. Some of them, I dare say, are hoping
that I shall be their mistress later on. If they could see what
sickness has made of me, they would go away in terror.
Prudence is giving her New Year's presents with those I have
There is a thaw, and the doctor says that I may go out in a few
days if the fine weather continues.
I went out yesterday in my carriage. The weather was lovely. The
Champs-Elysees was full of people. It was like the first smile of
spring. Everything about me had a festal air. I never knew before
that a ray of sunshine could contain so much joy, sweetness, and
I met almost all the people I knew, all happy, all absorbed in
their pleasures. How many happy people don't even know that they
are happy! Olympe passed me in an elegant carriage that M. de N.
has given her. She tried to insult me by her look. She little
knows how far I am from such things now. A nice fellow, whom I
have known for a long time, asked me if I would have supper with
him and one of his friends, who, he said, was very anxious to
make my acquaintance. I smiled sadly and gave him my hand,
burning with fever. I never saw such an astonished countenance.
I came in at four, and had quite an appetite for my dinner. Going
out has done me good. If I were only going to get well! How the
sight of the life and happiness of others gives a desire of life
to those who, only the night before, in the solitude of their
soul and in the shadow of their sick-room, only wanted to die
The hope of getting better was only a dream. I am back in bed
again, covered with plasters which burn me. If I were to offer
the body that people paid so dear for once, how much would they
give, I wonder, to-day?
We must have done something very wicked before we were born, or
else we must be going to be very happy indeed when we are dead,
for God to let this life have all the tortures of expiation and
all the sorrows of an ordeal.
I am always ill.
The Comte de N. sent me some money yesterday. I did not keep it.
I won't take anything from that man. It is through him that you
are not here.
Oh, that good time at Bougival! Where is it now?
If I come out of this room alive I will make a pilgrimage to the
house we lived in together, but I will never leave it until I am
Who knows if I shall write to you to-morrow?
I have not slept for eleven nights. I am suffocated. I imagine
every moment that I am going to die. The doctor has forbidden me
to touch a pen. Julie Duprat, who is looking after me, lets me
write these few lines to you. Will you not come back before I
die? Is it all over between us forever? It seems to me as if I
should get well if you came. What would be the good of getting
This morning I was awakened by a great noise. Julie, who slept in
my room, ran into the dining-room. I heard men's voices, and hers
protesting against them in vain. She came back crying.
They had come to seize my things. I told her to let what they
call justice have its way. The bailiff came into my room with his
hat on. He opened the drawers, wrote down what he saw, and did
not even seem to be aware that there was a dying woman in the bed
that fortunately the charity of the law leaves me.
He said, indeed, before going, that I could appeal within nine
days, but he left a man behind to keep watch. My God! what is to
become of me? This scene has made me worse than I was before.
Prudence wanted to go and ask your father's friend for money, but
I would not let her.
I received your letter this morning. I was in need of it. Will my
answer reach you in time? Will you ever see me again? This is a
happy day, and it has made me forget all the days I have passed
for the last six weeks. I seem as if I am better, in spite of the
feeling of sadness under the impression of which I replied to
After all, no one is unhappy always.
When I think that it may happen to me not to die, for you to come
back, for me to see the spring again, for you still to love me,
and for us to begin over again our last year's life!
Fool that I am! I can scarcely hold the pen with which I write to
you of this wild dream of my heart.
Whatever happens, I loved you well, Armand, and I would have died
long ago if I had not had the memory of your love to help me and
a sort of vague hope of seeing you beside me again.
The Comte de G. has returned. His mistress has been unfaithful to
him. He is very sad; he was very fond of her. He came to tell me
all about it. The poor fellow is in rather a bad way as to money;
all the same, he has paid my bailiff and sent away the man.
I talked to him about you, and he promised to tell you about me.
I forgot that I had been his mistress, and he tried to make me
forget it, too. He is a good friend.
The duke sent yesterday to inquire after me, and this morning he
came to see me. I do not know how the old man still keeps alive.
He remained with me three hours and did not say twenty words. Two
big tears fell from his eyes when he saw how pale I was. The
memory of his daughter's death made him weep, no doubt. He will
have seen her die twice. His back was bowed, his head bent toward
the ground, his lips drooping, his eyes vacant. Age and sorrow
weigh with a double weight on his worn-out body. He did not
reproach me. It looked as if he rejoiced secretly to see the
ravages that disease had made in me. He seemed proud of being
still on his feet, while I, who am still young, was broken down
The bad weather has returned. No one comes to see me. Julie
watches by me as much as she can. Prudence, to whom I can no
longer give as much as I used to, begins to make excuses for not
Now that I am so near death, in spite of what the doctors tell
me, for I have several, which proves that I am getting worse, I
am almost sorry that I listened to your father; if I had known
that I should only be taking a year of your future, I could not
have resisted the longing to spend that year with you, and, at
least, I should have died with a friend to hold my hand. It is
true that if we had lived together this year, I should not have
died so soon.
God's will be done!
Oh, come, come, Armand! I suffer horribly; I am going to die, O
God! I was so miserable yesterday that I wanted to spend the
evening, which seemed as if it were going to be as long as the
last, anywhere but at home. The duke came in the morning. It
seems to me as if the sight of this old man, whom death has
forgotten, makes me die faster.
Despite the burning fever which devoured me, I made them dress me
and take me to the Vaudeville. Julie put on some rouge for me,
without which I should have looked like a corpse. I had the box
where I gave you our first rendezvous. All the time I had my eyes
fixed on the stall where you sat that day, though a sort of
country fellow sat there, laughing loudly at all the foolish
things that the actors said. I was half dead when they brought me
home. I coughed and spat blood all the night. To-day I can not
speak, I can scarcely move my arm. My God! My God! I am going to
die! I have been expecting it, but I can not get used to the
thought of suffering more than I suffer now, and if--
After this the few characters traced by Marguerite were
indecipherable, and what followed was written by Julie Duprat.
Since the day that Marguerite insisted on going to the theatre
she has got worse and worse. She has completely lost her voice,
and now the use of her limbs.
What our poor friend suffers is impossible to say. I am not used
to emotions of this kind, and I am in a state of constant fright.
How I wish you were here! She is almost always delirious; but
delirious or lucid, it is always your name that she pronounces,
when she can speak a word.
The doctor tells me that she is not here for long. Since she got
so ill the old duke has not returned. He told the doctor that the
sight was too much for him.
Mme. Duvernoy is not behaving well. This woman, who thought she
could get more money out of Marguerite, at whose expense she was
living almost completely, has contracted liabilities which she
can not meet, and seeing that her neighbour is no longer of use
to her, she does not even come to see her. Everybody is
abandoning her. M. de G., prosecuted for his debts, has had to
return to London. On leaving, he sent us more money; he has done
all he could, but they have returned to seize the things, and the
creditors are only waiting for her to die in order to sell
I wanted to use my last resources to put a stop to it, but the
bailiff told me it was no use, and that there are other seizures
to follow. Since she must die, it is better to let everything go
than to save it for her family, whom she has never cared to see,
and who have never cared for her. You can not conceive in the
midst of what gilded misery the poor thing is dying. Yesterday we
had absolutely no money. Plate, jewels, shawls, everything is in
pawn; the rest is sold or seized. Marguerite is still conscious
of what goes on around her, and she suffers in body, mind, and
heart. Big tears trickle down her cheeks, so thin and pale that
you would never recognise the face of her whom you loved so much,
if you could see her. She has made me promise to write to you
when she can no longer write, and I write before her. She turns
her eyes toward me, but she no longer sees me; her eyes are
already veiled by the coming of death; yet she smiles, and all
her thoughts, all her soul are yours, I am sure.
Every time the door opens her eyes brighten, and she thinks you
are going to come in; then, when she sees that it is not you, her
face resumes its sorrowful expression, a cold sweat breaks out
over it, and her cheek-bones flush.
February 19, midnight.
What a sad day we have had to-day, poor M. Armand! This morning
Marguerite was stifling; the doctor bled her, and her voice has
returned to her a while. The doctor begged her to see a priest.
She said "Yes," and he went himself to fetch an abbe' from Saint
Meanwhile Marguerite called me up to her bed, asked me to open a
cupboard, and pointed out a cap and a long chemise covered with
lace, and said in a feeble voice:
"I shall die as soon as I have confessed. Then you will dress me
in these things; it is the whim of a dying woman.?
Then she embraced me with tears and added:
"I can speak, but I am stifled when I speak; I am stifling. Air!"
I burst into tears, opened the window, and a few minutes
afterward the priest entered. I went up to him; when he knew
where he was, he seemed afraid of being badly received.
"Come in boldly, father," I said to him.
He stayed a very short time in the room, and when he came out he
said to me:
"She lived a sinner, and she will die a Christian."
A few minutes afterward he returned with a choir boy bearing a
crucifix, and a sacristan who went before them ringing the bell
to announce that God was coming to the dying one.
They went all three into the bed-room where so many strange words
have been said, but was now a sort of holy tabernacle.
I fell on my knees. I do not know how long the impression of what
I saw will last, but I do not think that, till my turn comes, any
human thing can make so deep an impression on me.
The priest anointed with holy oil the feet and hands and forehead
of the dying woman, repeated a short prayer, and Marguerite was
ready to set out for the heaven to which I doubt not she will go,
if God has seen the ordeal of her life and the sanctity of her
Since then she has not said a word or made a movement. Twenty
times I should have thought her dead if I had not heard her
February 20, 5 P.M.
All is over.
Marguerite fell into her last agony at about two o'clock. Never
did a martyr suffer such torture, to judge by the cries she
uttered. Two or three times she sat upright in the bed, as if she
would hold on to her life, which was escaping toward God.
Two or three times also she said your name; then all was silent,
and she fell back on the bed exhausted. Silent tears flowed from
her eyes, and she was dead.
Then I went up to her; I called her, and as she did not answer I
closed her eyes and kissed her on the forehead.
Poor, dear Marguerite, I wish I were a holy woman that my kiss
might recommend you to God.
Then I dressed her as she had asked me to do. I went to find a
priest at Saint Roch, I burned two candles for her, and I prayed
in the church for an hour.
I gave the money she left to the poor.
I do not know much about religion, but I think that God will know
that my tears were genuine, my prayers fervent, my alms-giving
sincere, and that he will have pity on her who, dying young and
beautiful, has only had me to close her eyes and put her in her
The burial took place to-day. Many of Marguerite's friends came
to the church. Some of them wept with sincerity. When the funeral
started on the way to Montmartre only two men followed it: the
Comte de G., who came from London on purpose, and the duke, who
was supported by two footmen.
I write you these details from her house, in the midst of my
tears and under the lamp which burns sadly beside a dinner which
I can not touch, as you can imagine, but which Nanine has got for
me, for I have eaten nothing for twenty-four hours.
My life can not retain these sad impressions for long, for my
life is not my own any more than Marguerite's was hers; that is
why I give you all these details on the very spot where they
occurred, in the fear, if a long time elapsed between them and
your return, that I might not be able to give them to you with
all their melancholy exactitude.
"You have read it?" said Armand, when I had finished the
"I understand what you must have suffered, my friend, if all that
I read is true."
"My father confirmed it in a letter."
We talked for some time over the sad destiny which had been
accomplished, and I went home to rest a little.
Armand, still sad, but a little relieved by the narration of his
story, soon recovered, and we went together to pay a visit to
Prudence and to Julie Duprat.
Prudence had become bankrupt. She told us that Marguerite was the
cause of it; that during her illness she had lent her a lot of
money in the form of promissory notes, which she could not pay,
Marguerite having died without having returned her the money, and
without having given her a receipt with which she could present
herself as a creditor.
By the help of this fable, which Mme. Duvernoy repeated
everywhere in order to account for her money difficulties, she
extracted a note for a thousand francs from Armand, who did not
believe it, but who pretended to, out of respect for all those in
whose company Marguerite had lived.
Then we called on Julie Duprat, who told us the sad incident
which she had witnessed, shedding real tears at the remembrance
of her friend.
Lastly, we went to Marguerite's grave, on which the first rays of
the April sun were bringing the first leaves into bud.
One duty remained to Armand--to return to his father. He wished
me to accompany him.
We arrived at C., where I saw M. Duval, such as I had imagined
him from the portrait his son had made of him, tall, dignified,
He welcomed Armand with tears of joy, and clasped my hand
affectionately. I was not long in seeing that the paternal
sentiment was that which dominated all others in his mind.
His daughter, named Blanche, had that transparence of eyes, that
serenity of the mouth, which indicates a soul that conceives only
holy thoughts and lips that repeat only pious words. She welcomed
her brother's return with smiles, not knowing, in the purity of
her youth, that far away a courtesan had sacrificed her own
happiness at the mere invocation of her name.
I remained for some time in their happy family, full of indulgent
care for one who brought them the convalescence of his heart.
I returned to Paris, where I wrote this story just as it had been
told me. It has only one merit, which will perhaps be denied it;
that is, that it is true.
I do not draw from this story the conclusion that all women like
Marguerite are capable of doing all that she did--far from it;
but I have discovered that one of them experienced a serious love
in the course of her life, that she suffered for it, and that she
died of it. I have told the reader all that I learned. It was my
I am not the apostle of vice, but I would gladly be the echo of
noble sorrow wherever I bear its voice in prayer.
The story of Marguerite is an exception, I repeat; had it not
been an exception, it would not have been worth the trouble of